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Akimbo is a Toronto-based company that promotes contemporary visual art, video, new media and film locally, nationally and internationally via the internet. Established in November, 1999, Akimbo has built a readership of more than 6,800 Canadian and international media and visual arts professionals and a client base of some of the country's most important galleries, museums, art institutions and film and video festivals.

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    In an age of relentless content updates, when one is rarely at a loss for something to occupy their attention (that is, unless the Wi-Fi goes down), concision is something to be celebrated as a gift, if not a necessity. Curator Ben Portis has made a virtue of restraint (though the confined space of Pari Nadimi Gallery might have something to do with it) in his gathering of four generous works by five Canadian artists in the sculptural (even when it’s not) group exhibition Baleful.



    Jennifer Stillwell, Packs (detail), 2002, reconfigured armchairs

    The impetus for Portis' curation is also the hook that made me make my way down to the gallery in a miserable March rainstorm. Jennifer Stillwell's Packs are from the same era as her 2002 YYZ exhibition and dominate the space in both occupying most of the floor and demanding the most attention. The seven roughly dismantled easy chairs have been gathered up in kits that resemble backpacks created by an anal-retentive demolition crew. They set the tone for an exhibition of objects that exorcise the nostalgia from refuse and invite viewers to recreate the narratives tied to the things that occupy and then exit our lives.

    Nikki Woolsey's wall-hung assemblage fails to reach the escape velocity junk art needs to transcend its everyday identity, but, by falling short of transformation, it provides a handy reference for what the other works leave behind. Jimmy Limit makes a better effort at turning the everyday into something out of the ordinary. Usually his work strikes me as a play on commodity fetishism but his one photo in this unique context raises his still life to the level of metaphor and renders its random stack of stuff an absurd grace.



    Rhonda Weppler + Trevor Mahovsky, Don't be sad that it is over, be happy that it ever began, 2015, polymerized gypsum, enamel and spray paint on metal and cheesecloth armature

    The malignance implied by the exhibition title is most evident in Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky’s tar dripping reclamation of a university student’s dorm room decorations. The unknown undergraduate’s conflicted and pathetic attempts at claiming an identity (overlapping revolutionary heroes with consumer culture and personal affects) is recreated in blackened purple and sickly pink as if it was all that remained after a horror movie house fire. There’s violence in Stillwell's packs as well, with nails sticking out in thorny bursts and the soft contents bound, gagged, and ready to be dragged away. I keep coming back to them (as you should too) because they hold secrets and tell stories. They aren’t, in fact, concise so much as compressed (literally) and expand in significance once you imagine them free of their restraints.


    Pari Nadimi Gallery: http://parinadimigallery.com/Site/index.php
    Baleful continues until April 2.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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    I is being This, Liz Magor’s last solo exhibition at Catriona Jeffries in 2012, employed a symbolic system of consumption – the romance of purchasing, the primping of the package, and the cigarette’s lure. When the consumers of these objects are displaced, viewers of the work inhabit them with their impulses. We are all shopping, smoking, or both. With her new body of work, currently on display at Jeffries gallery, this previous trajectory seems to be hung over on the chemical releases that make buying stuff and smoking cigarettes so pleasurable. Now flaccidity on the other side of wanton ownership emerges in the form of aesthetic obsolescence and storage.



    Liz Magor

    With the fever of spring-cleaning upon us, the signs in this exhibition would sit uncomfortably in a well-curated lifestyle, and verge on storage and, ostensibly, trash. All The Names (A Head), for example, is a silicon bank box that contains “miscellaneous objects” and is placed at an awkward angle and distance from the wall as if to undermine its importance as an art object.

    Membership is another instance of how Magor hardens and anchors soft and itinerant signifiers. What appears to be an a stuffed toy dog standing before a monolithic piece of cardboard are, upon closer inspection, two objects that had their forms salvaged en route to the landfill of our imaginations. The creases she captures in these otherwise disposable surfaces hint at no trauma in particular other than the burden of transporting a large object. Yet, that banality manages to be of the same poetic tenor as the treatment of other regular objects, but given the artist’s patina of narrative. This staring contest has been immortalized in polymer gypsum; however, it remains ultimately unmindful of any analysis.


    Catriona Jeffries: http://catrionajeffries.com/
    Liz Magor continues until April 23.


    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.


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  • 03/24/16--20:02: Vulgar Era at Xpace
  • As an addendum to my recent video report on internet art, the current exhibition at Xpace (and also an early entry in the 2016 Images Festival Off Screen programming) picks up a couple of the threads I mentioned (visual play, virtual space) and adds some new issues (real space, mediated sexuality) to continue the work within what some refer to as post-internet art. The nomenclature of this very “now” practice is unsurprisingly under debate; suffice to say, a whole new landscape appeared a couple decades ago and we're still playing catch up with a world that changes a trillion times faster than plate tectonics.



    Trudy Erin Elmore

    On the subject of land, two of the artists in Vulgar Era bring their laptop experience to bear on the world out there. Alana Gilchrist’s video puts a bored model in liminally urban scenes that match the colour of her clothes. This footage is then embedded in a out of date monitor that is otherwise landfill sitting on the barren plane of a gravel quarry. Anyone who has driven through the outskirts of southern Ontario will get the idea. The medium might be newish, but the ennui is not.

    Erin Whittier’s photo-based sculpture, on the other hand, is unexpected in structure and matches serendipitously sublime Google streetview-scapes with actual samples of plant life and a smattering of dirt. Suspended between sheets of glass, the content of the work appears in layers like multiple windows open on a computer screen; the differences between real, represented, and mediated are not so much blurred as ignored.



    Mary Grisey

    An opportune contrast to this digital aesthetic is available with the back gallery exhibition of Mary Grisey’s paean to authenticity Cloth Dripping. Her materials – rough hewn terracotta and ragged cloth weaving – loudly proclaim that they are the real thing. She then adds water (literally) as elemental evidence and includes a recording of a woman's voice for further testimony to the unquestionable veracity of nature.

    However, that very nature is questioned in Dahae Song’s 3D renderings of the human heart created from scanned abstract paintings and Nadia Kuzmicz’s neon and cement window work – never has light and earth been less real than with these two materials. Alessia Dowhaniuk’s video montage of internet hook-up sites and Trudy Erin Elmore’s sexually and spiritually active skeletons turn intimacy and transcendence into alienated experiences rendered in fragmented screenshots or crass computer graphics. There’s a grimness throughout that hints at something lost.

    It strikes me that millennial artists, despite being born with the internet as a given, still struggle with its artificiality. The sex is tinged with dread, the abstractions are inessential, and prelapsarian nature is pined for, just like any old modernist suffocating in industrial urbanism. My point isn't to dismiss the youth, but to identify the ways in which they fight the same old fights. It doesn’t matter what tools are used, everyone is just trying to keep it real.


    Xpace Cultural Centre: http://www.xpace.info/
    Vulgar Era continues until April 30.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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    Like a podiatrist named Foote or a physiotherapist named Hand (or an art critic named Dick), an artist named Gander is a happy accident. To take a gander at something is a colloquialism for checking it out. The English artist Ryan Gander takes in the world with a reckless, which is to say unrestricted abandon, and reassembled it in whimsical ways. The name suits him. A selection of his works, now on display at Scrap Metal Gallery, is worth a gander too. They reveal a method of semi-free association and meta-art play with a little bit of surrealism thrown in (from the free associative objet trouvé sector).



    Ryan Gander, I is…(xi), 2014, marble resin

    He finds inspiration in the creations of his children, casting their temporary fortifications of furniture and bed sheets with the authority of marble. Rendering the fragile permanent is absurd, poetic, and haunting all at once. The sheets reappear draped over a mirror to obscure the viewer’s self-regard and in doing so make that self-regard all the more palpable. A similar recognition occurs when you happen upon the bronzed sneakers that are no different from any scuffed Keds in a million closets around the world – except these are bronze and in an art gallery.

    The intimacy of these objects make them more affecting than the works the artist has constructed from existing images. An abstraction based on logos and the display units that house assorted found photographs feel like puzzles to be solved with no one arrangement better than the next. There is a pleasure in that freedom to finish the work however you see fit, but it can also leave you wanting something more.



    Ryan Gander, Like Being Balanced on the Handlebars of a Blind Man’s Bike, 2008, steel coloured balls

    Shortly after visiting the Gander exhibition, I read a review of a small survey of David Hammons’ work in New York. Certain similarities between the artists struck me: they both work in a variety of media, they both possess a sense of humour tinged with something not so funny, and they both scavenge the everyday for sculptures that monumentalize cast-offs and detritus. But where Gander is content to idealize the freedom of the artist’s imagination (not a bad thing), Hammons punctures that innocence with a reminder of the troubles of the real world and racism in particular. On a week when I had to explain sexual assault to my twelve year old daughter, where Black Lives Matter protestors set up camp outside the nearby police station, and where democracy in the US continued to collapse under the strain of demagoguery, Gander didn't have the strength to transport me the way he should. I just couldn’t make believe, but maybe things will be better next week.


    Scrap Metal Gallery: http://www.scrapmetalgallery.com/
    Ryan Gander: Creative Play May Entail Some Risk Taking continues until May 14.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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    Arts Commons is a very large arts centre in the downtown core and, in typical Calgarian fashion, by “arts” we mean theatre. Calgary as a city is deeply committed to theatre; the infrastructure is remarkable – many companies, many venues. Arts Commons alone boasts five separate theatre spaces and a concert hall, and is home to no less than seven resident companies. While there isn’t much crossover or collaboration between contemporary art and theatre here, Arts Commons has admittedly thrown the visual art scene a pretty impressive bone with the +15 Gallery spaces. Another deeply Calgary thing, +15 is an indoor walkway going throughout the downtown core so you can avoid the cold. Arts Commons hosts exhibitions in these window and public screen spaces, programmed by a range of local not-for-profits and ARCs, including The New Gallery, Truck, and Untitled Art Society among others.



    Heather Kai Smith, A Woman Comes into the Room

    Usually window gallery spaces seem kind of sad – works shoehorned into odd places – but in this case it actually seems to work. Perhaps it’s because of the critical mass of exhibitions (around five or six separate projects on view at a time). Perhaps it’s because the +15 Galleries are a well-known opportunity in this community, especially for emerging artists. People have really figured out how to work in these funny little spaces.

    There are a number of thoughtful exhibitions on view at the moment that point this out. Nate McLeod and Cassandra Paul’s ever-evolving exhibition of studio bits Faux Naif (name taken from a previous Akimblog review!) at the Ledge Gallery is a nice process-oriented meditation on exhibition making. The Gallery of Alberta Media Art exhibits three strong short films by Jadda Tusi, Joel Hamilton, and Heather Kai Smith. The latter’s A Woman Comes into the Room, a series of moving drawings set to Alice Notely’s 1979 poem of the same name, was a highlight of my visit.

    It’s also worth a visit to see projects currently on view from The New Gallery, Truck, and Stride Gallery. This type of public gallery is always stuck between exhibition space and advertising space, but instead of wallowing in this awkwardness, the participating artists and curators working here have elevated this transitional passageway into a surprisingly compelling and important zone for contemporary art in the city.


    +15 Galleries: https://www.artscommons.ca/artscommonspresents/visual and media arts/plus15 galleries
    Nate McLeod and Cassandra Paul: Faux-Naif continues until May 20 (Ledge Gallery).
    Wingman, A Woman Comes Into the Room, and M22. 079 continues until May 30 (GAMA Gallery)
    May G.N.: What is the Unknowable Territory continues until May 31 (TRUCK Gallery)
    Tennis Club: Hall of Fame continues to May 31 (Stride Gallery)
    This Is My City Festival + WP Puppet Theatre continues until May 26 (The New Gallery)


    Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.


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    Before this week’s winter vortex hit Montreal, spring was in the air: bikes were being pulled out, thawed parks rediscovered, running shoes dusted off, paused friendships rekindled. And so, with a bounce in my step, I headed off to see Motion. Montreal/Geneva, a collaboration between host gallery Galerie de l'UQAM and HEAD-Genève (Geneva University of Art and Design) co-curated by La Fabrique d’exposion (Montreal) and LiveInYourHead (Geneva). The curatorial collective from Montreal proposed a series of videos by Quebec artists with the conceptual theme of “motion” – what “activates” and “motivates” individuals as they engage with the world around them. In response, LiveInYourHead selected video documentation from a 2014 project Performance Proletarians, led by artists Lili Reynaud Dewar and Benjamin Valenza, featuring private performances by artists and students.



    Verena Dengler, Performance Proletarians, 2014

    I love the idea of creating an international exchange of ideas and aesthetics between art schools – not just solitary students embarking on a term away (which can also have impressive and far reaching results) – but a broader scoop into the local community. It would be great to see more of this at UQAM and Concordia. Motion. Montreal/Geneva is, at this point in the dialogue, a slightly asymmetrical exhibition. The Montreal contingent consists of well-established mid-career Quebec artists (Patrick Bernatchez, BGL, Myriam Laplante, Michel de Broin, Nadia Myre, etc.) and their videos are finished works. Whereas the video from Geneva is documentation of performance work, so it has a very different feel. Although there are performances by established artists (e.g., Reynaud-Dewar has an international profile), it also includes a lot of student work, which is refreshing and apropos. It made me want to see work by the UQAM student community included. Another iteration of Motion will be presented in Geneva this May, so perhaps some of our local students’ work will be featured there. Surely by then spring will have sprung, limbs will have stretched, and Montreal will be ready to travel.


    Galerie de l’UQAM: https://galerie.uqam.ca/en/home.html
    Motion. Montreal/Geneva continues until April 9.


    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.


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  • 04/07/16--21:59: 20 Years at Lonsdale Gallery
  • The tenth anniversary of the first Akimblog review is coming up in a couple weeks and I'm feeling a tad reflective about the passage of time. Now that I refer to the past in terms of decades not years, I spend a lot more time dwelling on what it all meant rather than what it’s going to be. Your past is an undeniable indicator of who you are, so institutions, just like people, benefit from the reminder as well as the reassertion (or sometimes recalibration) of that history. Angell Gallery is marking twenty years in the game this month, as is the downtown's northernmost outpost Lonsdale Gallery. Both spaces are marking the occasion by hosting gatherings of their various alumni with the result being less a hit parade and more like a family reunion where you’re happy to see some familiar faces, surprised to someone new, and careful to steer clear of those you know to avoid.



    Elisabeth Picard, Rainbow Mountains, 2015, 60 000 dyed Zip-Tyes

    I visited the latter gallery, drawn in by the striking suspended weaving by Elisabeth Picard strategically placed in the front window. Rainbow Mountains did its job of getting me through the door, but the shadowy mass splayed across the back corner made me want to stay. Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann’s Slurry is an ectoplasmic abstract barf combined with an ink-drawn evocation of caffeinated anxiety. And I mean that appreciatively. Amongst the better behaved works spread through the gallery's two levels, there are a handful of notable anomalies, like Jim Hake’s sign language signing gloves, Patrice Charbonneau’s intriguingly incomplete painting of what might be a shower curtain, and Keith W. Bentley’s bifurcated blue garden sculptures.



    Peggy Taylor Reid, form follows (dis)function, shoes, 2016, inkjet print

    Hidden away in a nook on the second floor is the prize inside for this grab bag art exhibition. Peggy Taylor Reid makes the kind of art that I didn't think anyone made anymore. There's a touch of Micah Lexier in her use of cardboard, but the classification of forms in her flatly objective prints of various cardboard containers harkens back to commodity critiques of the nineties and structuralist photo docs of Bernd and Hilla Becher. There's also a sly humour and the melancholy of detritus, linking junk art and found abstraction with the dumb simplicity (as in directness) of neo-conceptualism. It feels old but fresh and timeless in that way all art aspires to. The more I hung around it, the more I fell for it, though I worried my reaction was just evidence of a weakness for nostalgia (just like my ongoing fondness for indie rock of the nineties). Haven't I grown up yet? Isn't it time? The wisdom and certainty of age that I expected when I was younger isn’t as emphatic as I hoped, which isn't to say I don't know what's good; rather, I still appreciate - even hunger for - whatever confusion comes next. That's what will carry us through to the next big birthday.


    Lonsdale Gallery: http://lonsdalegallery.com/
    20 Years continues until May 1.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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  • 04/14/16--04:13: Patrick Cruz at Centre A
  • Patrick Cruz’s latest solo exhibition, Bulaklak ng Paraiso, currently on display at Centre A, is an exuberant mixed bag that has found occasion to burst at the seams. Hundreds of un-stretched paintings cover and creep up the walls, obscure the floor, and overlap each other with irreverence for the composition of each individual work. However, this individuality becomes, well, irrelevant, if the composition is merely a fiber of a much larger construction. And, it’s worthy to note, that despite receiving the 2015 RBC Painting Prize, the paintings in this exhibition resonate in a completely different way from his winning submission Time Allergy (though they all share a similar painterly visage)



    Patrick Cruz, Bulaklak ng Paraiso

    Looking at each painting individually provides about as much insight into the overall exhibition as we would from focusing our attention on specific objects in the exhibition – for instance, a crate of bath towels, stuffed birds, or an office telephone slathered in acrylic paint. All of the above are examples of objects accumulated amidst other sculptures and found objects slathered in paint and located in the pit of the exhibition. In this assemblage, the cheekily titled Landscape Painting, the artist paints a geo-political landscape that depicts the movement of products that originate in the West, are manufactured abroad, and then reintroduced as kitschy consumer delights. Cruz’s “maximalist” strategy speaks to the deluge of a globalized world. Whether it is an outright critique remains uncertain, but he is unabashed about its influence.

    The way Cruz’s paintings are shown give the exhibition its initial power and allure, but this effect merely couches a nexus of media and intentions furthered by the sculptures, as well as the videos of other artists that are also included. Grotto gathers three works by Casey Wei, Dada Docot, and Jac Phillipe V. Carpio that are shown on separate monitors amongst smaller sculptural odds and ends. While they are auxiliary, their presence confirms the political connotations sublimated by Cruz’s frenzied and uncalculated aesthetic. Each film depicts bodies and voices at work, anchored in the emotional and quotidian realities of cultural and economic exchange that Cruz’s materials speak to, but these subjects cannot be completely articulated with paint and matter alone.


    Centre A: http://centrea.org/
    Patrick Cruz: Bulaklak ng Paraiso (Flower of Paradise) continues until May 7.


    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.


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    Leya Evelyn’s large, multi-paneled paintings are laid out with more than ample room on the walls of Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery. Abstraction always seems to need the space. Layered almost encaustic thick, the works smell of their oil paint, filling the otherwise vacant gallery. The titles – It’s Not What You Think, And Then Some, etc. – seem to have more to do with the artist's state of mind than they do with the actual compositions. A multitude of choices based on intuition no doubt pour from each new frame of mind, shaping the approach and outcome of each piece. Repetitive marks and signature flourishes join each new work to the next.



    Leya Evelyn, It’s Not What You Think No. 1, 2016

    Colour too ties this collection together, the bulk of the larger compositions are painted on plains of sandy beige, while a few are an anchoring jet black. Off in the side gallery a selection bright smaller pieces move through a gradient of color. From the staple beige they fade through blues, peaches, and sunny yellow. On the whole Evelyn’s practice seems to consist of a constant exercise of repetition.

    All the works are recent. They have been made in the few months that have passed in 2016 so far. They are works of tremendous vigor. Gestures layer on gestures and marks that dig into the paint and collage laid before. The artist’s career stretches back into her twenties, implying that these gestural marks have become her language. Were these marks decipherable they might more plainly speak to the narrative titles of the works. As it stands the message appears arbitrary. This is a statement of practice for the sake of practice. Creation for the sake of creation.


    Saint Mary's University Art Gallery: http://www.smu.ca/campus-life/art-gallery.html
    Leya Evelyn: It's Not What You Think continues until May 29.


    Anna Taylor is an artist, crafter, and organizer sitting on the board of the Halifax Crafters Society. She is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @TaylorMadeGoods.


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    How do you break the news to an artist who curates an exhibition that his talents lie in his eye for others not in his own hand? Keith J. Varadi, who also has a solo exhibition on display at Cooper Cole and is responsible for the mind-bending group show in the front space, is someone who needs to be told. His own work is a painfully self-referential, quasi-fictional – but not really, but actually maybe – account of an artist played by the artist himself who takes pictures or appears in videos that end up in the galleries that exhibit the work of Keith J. Varadi. The vexing meta-awareness bleeds into a break up with the dealer who happened to be exhibiting an earlier iteration of this multiparty project, or at least that's what the current gallerist told me, which is interesting as gossip but not particularly compelling as art.



    Wesley Friedrich, Hands, 2013, prop hands, cardboard, wood, hardware, tape

    Dream Song 386, on the other hand, the exhibition that Varadi curated is also about him (something to do with the Midwest and fracking), but if you divorce yourself from the weight of autobiography there's a wild and woolly exhibition to be seen. It reminds me of my first experiences of being pleasantly disoriented by art that only occasionally struck me as familiar. The reward here is not so much the individual work as the opening up of possibility when you are exposed to everything from a standard pop art painting of sliced bread to metal rack slung with a row of pristine watering cans based on a similar rack found in a cemetery. The linking narrative is even too abstruse for me to run with, but that can be freeing as well. Ben Fain’s low rent, Matthew Barney-lite prank parade video is the literal central work and its anarchic disregard for hierarchies sets the tone.



    Becky Howland, Love Canal Potato, 1980, plaster, eye, pigment

    However, if pressed, I’d identify the anchors of this assembly as two of the older artists who have been invited to the party (since the gallery’s last exhibition also featured elder statesman Gerald Ferguson, it looks like this might be a bit of a thing, and I’m all for it). Alan Belcher has been Toronto-based for decades, but his reputation lies in New York of the eighties and his recent CV is blank when it comes to local appearances. Given the millennial love for all things from that grim decade of my adolescence (it started with the threat of nuclear war and ended with the plague of AIDS), it makes sense that Belcher would return to the fold. However, whereas he shows newer work, fellow elder Becky Howland contributes pieces from the past such as her innocuous but ominous Love Canal Potato. As a creation that begins to grow again if left alone long enough, the tuber she’s hidden away in the corner might just be the true avatar of this confusing dream.


    Cooper Cole Gallery: http://coopercolegallery.com/
    Keith J. Varadi: Self-Evident Loss continues until April 30.
    Dream Song 386 continues until April 30.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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  • 04/21/16--06:26: 2016 Images Festival
  • Of all the film and video festivals in Toronto (and there are a lot), the Images Festival has always seemed to suffer (or benefit) from the most acute sense of an identity crisis. Combining screenings with gallery installations with performances with artist talks and panels, it sets its scope wide and forgoes any conveniently reductive focus on cultural, social, political or national affiliation. It's also the festival that cleaves closest to the sensibility of the visual art world and has in the past shown the type if work that either interests visual artists or also appears in galleries. At the same time, the strong tradition of film and video makers of the experimental or fringe bent in this city and around the world are also represented (case in point, the premiere of a new Mike Hoolboom work). But amidst all that possibility some decisions have to be made, some identity has to be established, and this is where the character of the programmers and artistic director comes in. This is the second year that Amy Fung (former Vancouver correspondent for Akimblog) has been at the curatorial helm and, along with a new Executive Director, her gradual rethinking and reinvention of the festival is coming into focus.



    Adebukola Bodunrin & Ezra Clayton Daniels, The Golden Chain, 2015, digital video

    One shift that seems to be happening is a move from an emphasis on the formal qualities of media to a greater consideration of content, as in what the camera is pointing at. Robin Collyer emphatically directs our attention at stuff in his series of stationary views of piles of product on display at the soon to be no more Honest Ed’s discount store. Videos of performances performed by Bridget Moser or orchestrated by Allison Hrabluik use editing and framing to otherwise objectively document things happening in rooms. The meaning of those actions is another story. And speaking of stories, narratives can be found throughout, from the Afro-Futurist animation of Adebukola Bodunrin and Ezra Clayton DanielsThe Golden Chain to the personal poetry of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby’s Dear Lorde.



    Emily Vey Duke & Cooper Battersby, Dear Lorde, 2015, digital video

    The Canadian duo who now reside and teach in Syracuse, New York, had their almost two decade-long career spotlighted with a program that culminated in a new work that incorporated their familiar pastiche of seemingly offhand documentary shots with close-ups of nature and text on screen. The conceit of Dear Lorde is that it is a portrait of a teenage girl living in the desert told through a series of letters she writes to her heroes – from Bishop Desmond Tutu to the pop singer Lorde. The naturalness of the non-actor who plays the lead and the authenticity of the combined angst and wonder of her voiceover combine to create the kind of art that seems effortless and true, but is in fact so hard to capture without falling into cliché or sounding fake. Vey Duke and Battersby also accomplish this in how they assemble their videos, turning the everyday into gestures of beauty. By seeming to put little thought into either form or content, they manage the magical transformation of turning both into evidence of mastery.


    Images Festival: http://www.imagesfestival.com/festival.php
    The 2016 Images Festival continues until April 23.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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    In an attempt to sap some of the frantic energy of exam season, I headed up to the University of Calgary’s Nickle Galleries. They are currently featuring an ambitious retrospective – primarily in multi-channel video – of Canmore-based artist (and former photojournalist) Dan Hudson’s work alongside a seasonally appropriate BFA exhibition. The Hudson exhibition features a wide range of moving images on monitors and as projections, but the main draw is the newest and perhaps most ambitious of his creations to date: a twelve-channel video installation titled 360.



    Dan Hudson, 360

    Simple but remarkably immersive, this work sits the viewer in the centre of a circle of monitors depicting scenes of everyday life in Berlin between 2013 and 2015. The voyeuristic, fly-on-the-wall quality of the videos gives the viewer visually pleasing access to the goings-on of a city that is increasingly the centre of contemporary art production – certainly for Canadian artists. Each channel is meant to represent one of the twelve sections of the zodiac, but that doesn’t really matter; the work reads better as a much less prescribed meditation on the fluidity of both time and place. At its best 360 functions as a low-key documentary that will become only more interesting and important as time wears on – so it’s a good thing that the Nickle has decided to acquire it.

    The overall exhibition is cleverly and beautifully installed in one of the strangest and most difficult gallery spaces to work with in this city. The BFA exhibition on the upper floor is worth a look too, mostly for Marina DiMaio’s compelling little orbs that contain strange waxen landscapes. I found it odd and a bit unfortunate that there wasn’t any work from the university’s MFA program on exhibition. It would have been nice to see what they are up to as well.


    Nickle Galleries: http://nickle.ucalgary.ca/
    Dan Hudson: 360 and Other Journeys continues until August 12.


    Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.


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  • 04/28/16--20:38: Papier 16
  • From its inaugural launch in the glass foyer of Mies’ Westmount Square, to the Black Watch Armoury, and on through the more traditional “art fair” years in tents around the city, Papier has always made for a fun little excursion. Due to the medium specificity of ‘”work on paper” (some gallerists bend it to be “made of paper” or “featuring paper”), there is always an aura of lightness as you walk amongst the displays. This lightness is often matched by early spring weather that, along with the relative affordability of the art, helps entice throngs of Montrealers to check out the event.



    Karen Kraven, Knicks and Rangers

    Located in a hangar in Old Montreal, Papier 16’s layout seemed a bit dark and crowded. There was no open area and even the space set up for the panel discussions was tiny and invisibly tucked away behind a wall. On top of that, some strong galleries were missing either because they closed (Jessica Bradley, Donald Browne) or they chose not to make the trip (Susan Hobbs, Clint Roenisch, Diaz Contemporary). I also felt there was very little risk in terms presentation (I’m thinking back to projects such as Lum & Desranleau’s paper installations at Gallery Hughes Charbonneau for Papier 14).

    Having said this, there was a lot of great work. The booths for Parisian Laundry and Battat Contemporary stood out the most. I appreciated work by Karen Kraven (Parisian Laundry), Beth Stuart (Battat Contemporary), and Luanne Martineau (Trépanier Baer), not to mention some fabulous little collages by Guy Maddin at Lisa Kehler Art + Projects. As I navigated the crowds and stepped carefully around the strollers, I spotted everyone from random neighbours to members of the local art community and an excited looking Melanie Jolie (Federal Minister of Culture) darting in and out of the aisles. Montreal is in desperate need of more budding collectors, and Papier goes a long way to make it happen.


    Papier 16: http://papiermontreal.com/en/


    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.


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    The desire to get back to nature sets up a false dichotomy between what we humans are and do and make, and what everything else on the planet is and does and makes. Not only that, it plants that divide deep within our being, cleaving the natural things like our bodies and all the delightful and disgusting things they do and make apart from the headier stuff like apartment buildings, circuit boards, and non-organic processed food. At a time when we Canadians emerge from our winter hibernation (the season that strips the natural down to its barest elements) and head out into parks, fields and hillocks to regain a sense of what it means to be whole, one wonders just how far back you have to go in order to truly get back to nature. I appalled my friends and family recently when I claimed to prefer walking around a city like Los Angeles to any hike through Algonquin Park. My argument (other than the fact that there are less mosquitoes) was that the urban landscape was just as full of wonder and just as much a part of our world as the wild. Maybe even more so. Not surprisingly, I was scoffed. If only Heather Phillipson had my back.



    Heather Phillipson, sub-fusc love-feast

    The London-based artist/poet is the creator of the room-filling video installation sub-fusc love-feast in Trinity Square Video’s brand new exhibition space. Presented in collaboration with the Images Festival, this three-screen projection plus gigantic and miniaturized photographic cut-outs of assorted animals (and wooden platform/hill-like thing) riffs on the idea of nature to highlight the myriad ways in which our sense of the thing and the thing itself (if such a thing exists and is accessible) diverge. The images of wildlife both on the screens and in the gallery are torn straight from the pages of children’s books or the footage of nature documentaries. There is a sanitized feel to these representations that clean up the raw messiness of nature (I’ve never seen a cleaner giant worm) to make them family friendly creatures of educational entertainment. Phillipson is planted firmly in the world of media saturated images and easily exploits our romanticized notions of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I experience a twinge of self-realization as I flashback to the moment my childhood dreams of being an oceanographer were crushed when I realized biology class was nothing like Jacques Cousteau’s television adventures.



    Heather Phillipson, sub-fusc love-feast

    At one point, the narrator states, "I'm sorry; it's not in my nature," and out of that denial spirals a whole raft of contradictions. The wordplay and lo-fi editing combined with a kind of slacker cleverness is reminiscent of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby’s meditations on our affection for/alienation from our animal others. There isn’t as much of their anarchic edge and oblique sense of humour, so the video leaves me wanting, but the faux charm (my favourite kind) of sitting amidst a menagerie of laminated fauna is more than enough to justify a city safari in this direction.


    Trinity Square Video: http://www.trinitysquarevideo.com/heather-phillipson-sub-fusc-love-feast/
    Heather Phillipson: sub-fusc love-feast continues until May 7.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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  • 05/05/16--17:03: Karen Asher at aceartinc.
  • I remember seeing Karen Asher around Winnipeg over the years and always wondered who she was. I often noticed her working at various cool jobs: cashier at the University bookstore, clerk at the only music shop that mattered. Her bright lipstick and hair piled up on her head in an effortlessly messy-chic Mary Margaret O’Hara situation made for a compelling yet mysterious public persona. The veil was lifted somewhat as I learned of her photographic practice and came to know her as an artist. She firmly established her place as a fixture of the local art scene with her first solo show in 2010 and now follows it up with a strong second offering that has been joyously embraced by the community.



    Karen Asher, Peach Pit, 2015, C-Print

    Building on an established style, The Full Catastrophe– currently on display at aceartinc.– continues Asher’s exploration of what might be deemed “intimate portraiture.” Her subjects are seen physically interacting in often mundane domestic spaces. Their identities are occasionally obscured by flowing tresses or errant body parts. Are these situations staged or natural? It is difficult for a viewer to ascertain exactly, so one is left wondering whether that detail even matters.

    The artist toys with the tension of this interplay, further pushing audiences by presenting what appears to be a glimpse into the personal experiences of strangers and their strange lives. There is a frank openness here and yet certain details are held back. For the keen-eyed Winnipegger, many of the photographic subjects will look familiar – whether it is the barista who serves you your tea every morning or a face that is continually popping up on your Instagram feed. In the end, The Full Catastrophe playfully pulls back the curtain, but not on the truth of identity so much as the dichotomy of perception: the personal and the public, the abject and the attractive, the known and the unknown.


    aceartinc.: http://www.aceart.org/
    Karen Asher: The Full Catastrophe continues until May 20.


    Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and educator who lives in Winnipeg. She can be followed on Twitter @WesternJenny.


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    The Canadian fascination with all things American is a bit of a problem. It’s not only present in the dominance of Hollywood film and popular music, but rears its ugly head in the realms of politics and visual art. What with the inevitability of endless Trump coverage for the next six months (please, America, let it end there), I don’t think I can handle any more news from our neighbours to the south. Relentless self-promoters, self-regarders, and self-mythologizers that they are, their vision of self as a mutable and public thing has colonized our subconscious and is inextricably linked to how we view photographic portraiture. This is even the case for those on the margins, as Outsiders American Photography and Film 1950s–1980s, currently on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario, emphatically argues.



    Marie Menken, Go! Go! Go!, 1962–1964,
16mm colour film
(courtesy: Anthology Film Archives)

    The truth of this is evident in how familiar much of this work is (which is not necessarily a criticism when it comes to art). Certain faces in Gary Winogrand's crowds stand out. Even if they aren't immediately recognizable in the context of his unposed snapshots, they are definitely somebodies from an era before Instagram made everyone a somebody. Diane Arbus's subjects are familiar in a different way: perpetuated through pop culture, some have become iconic, others are known as merely art works (which leaves those we don’t know at all the most memorable of the bunch). A similar acquaintance with people we have never met is experienced in Nan Goldin’s documents of her near and dear. The manner in which they transcend history to become something mythological was explored almost twenty years ago in The Power Plant exhibition American Playhouse, curated by Philip Monk and featuring a number of the same artists. This exhibition leans more toward the anthropological, adding tables of ephemera and including more work born from the kind of new journalism that is so common now we don’t notice its subjectivity, but was radical at the time.



    Unknown American,
 Susanna and a friend in the kitchen, 1955–1963,
 chromogenic print 
(collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario; purchase, with funds generously donated by Martha LA McCain; 2015
© Art Gallery of Ontario)

    Much of this work was intended for a mass audience. Winogrand and Gordon Parks shot for Life magazine. Goldin had her sideshow performances for the local community. They were images presented as a mirror to the world and a way for Americans to see themselves. The most complicated example of this is the collection of unattributed photos gathered under the title Casa Susanna. They are the pictures that a community of men who liked to dress up in women’s clothes took of themselves. They were never intended for an art gallery (though some appeared in a magazine dedicated to those with this special interest), so when they end up in a white cube the ethics of display immediately come into question. This has less to do with who they appear to be and more with who they actually are. That’s a universal problem, not just an American one.


    Art Gallery of Ontario: http://www.ago.net/outsiders
    Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s–1980s continues until May 29.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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  • 05/12/16--04:06: Yorodeo at CBU Art Gallery
  • A tiny figure peers out of a craggy rock face. An explorer in an alien land. New Findings is the most recent achievement of collaborators Paul Hammond and Seth Smith. In it they lay out an archive of scientific discovery both real and imagined. Over a decade of working together as Yorodeo, Hammond and Smith have stretched the limits of their medium to create new realms through anaglyphic printing. This exhibition manipulates space and time within the Cape Breton University Art Gallery by making print sculptural and resurfacing sculpture in print. The work is interactive and engaging. Its imagery plunges depths that any visitor can pull meaning from.



    Yorodeo

    Anaglyphs are created by layering a black and white image with slightly offset red and blue versions of the same. By varying the distance of these offset layers, the artists achieve multiple depths in a three-dimensional picture when it is viewed through the red and blue glasses (provided by the gallery). Rarely does an exhibition translate the experimentation and discovery that creative endeavors involve. Math, method, and chemistry are often highly entwined with artistic practice. Here the artists clearly lay out their findings in two bodies of work. By exhibiting the earlier Three Dee Realms alongside New Findings, the gallery allows visitors to walk through an evolving collection as the artists make great leaps in perfecting their methods.

    The more recent work presents a series of discovered elements from untold new dimensions. Strange objects, isolated in a plane void of gravity, hover in spheres of frozen space-time. Preserved in these circles the prints are reminiscent of petri dishes, a display of scientific discovery compiled by mythical explorers in alternate universes. Site A to Site D offer up points of origin for these uncategorizable items. Created in both print and sculpture these landscapes feature tiny figures that appear overwhelmed in the vastness of these new realms. They are observers in their own imagined reality.

    Anchoring the show on the final wall, a massive print shows Site E: a rock face plunging deep into the wall centering on a point of light. It is possibly a reflective surface at the end of a well or perhaps a distant planet seen from looking out of a deep crevice. Steep rocky walls tower around you as you look out into the endless possibilities of this exploration. This collection is a jumping off point, a peek into a universe of limitless experimentation.


    Cape Breton University Art Gallery: http://www.cbu.ca/campus/art-gallery/
    Yorodeo: New Findings continues until June 24.


    Anna Taylor is an artist, crafter, and organizer sitting on the board of the Halifax Crafters Society. She is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @TaylorMadeGoods.


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    Field Guide, Jochen Lempert’s exhibition of black and white photographs at the Contemporary Art Gallery, is audacious in its simplicity. Trained as a biologist, Lempert’s eye is driven to capture things empirically, but he subverts the potential coldness of study with his pronounced compositional choices, resulting in pictures that carry surprising whimsy.



    Jochen Lempert, My garden

    Captured in four frames, My garden is shot from above and documents a low-flying bird and its shadow traversing a suburban cobblestone sidewalk. A woman on a bench nearby looks on, her small adjustments are also captured in this sequence. Encroaching bushes on the left side of the frame, and two parked cars on the right enclose this visual parallel between woman and bird. Vanessa atalanta migration focuses the camera on a butterfly resting on the pane of the artist’s studio window. He is able to identify the species of this butterfly – Red Admiral – as well as acknowledge that this is not a mere poetic incident, but a pause on the butterfly’s migratory path. Works such as these are exemplary of Lempert’s harmony between observation and artful propositions.

    All of the prints are hung bare on the wall, gripping to the surface with nothing more than tape. Rather than forcing the hand of a pristine presentation, the slight curl of the photo paper accompanies the natural forms and activities in the picture. Everything from the installation to content – mainly depictions of plants and animals – comes across as a rather basic exercise in photographic depiction. And that is precisely what it is. It is all the more satisfying as a viewer to feel confident that what they are seeing needs nothing more and didn’t need much to begin with.


    Contemporary Art Gallery: http://www.contemporaryartgallery.ca/
    Jochen Lempert: Field Guide continues until July 17.


    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.


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    The most divisive aspect of contemporary art is the matter of getting it or not. The antagonism that arises in the general public when faced with work they don’t get drives them to derision (I know from years of sitting in a public art gallery and having to defend my workplace), and a similar, though quieter, dismissal occurs within the art community. On one level, the reaction results from not understanding why anyone would like a particular body of work, but on another, it’s an admission of incomprehension. Works that have to be read as much as they are experienced are the guilty party here. Any number of artists who rely on references, back-stories, obscure knowledge, and hermeneutics could serve as examples. As regards this latter sort of not knowing (different from not liking), I have a conflicted relationship and often find myself wavering between rejection and curiosity. As a lifelong reader and student of post-structuralism, impediments to understanding inevitably drive me forward.



    Nadia Belerique, Bed Island, 2016, detail

    Nadia Belerique’s work – her solo exhibition Bed Island is currently on view at Daniel Faria Gallery– is a semiotician's wet dream. Every element in her work is a sign for something else. Pictures that are pictures of pictures. Frames that are sculptures of frames framing bare walls that are signs for bare walls because the drywall has been cut away to reveal the bare wood underneath. The wood with its exposed screws and pencil marks is both itself and a symbol of the underlying foundation as ever present but also repressed, denied, obscured, forgotten. But not here, every thing is a reminder of its thingness. Is this what they mean by object-oriented ontology? It can't be, because everything is something else as well. An imprint or a mark or a silhouette or a cut or a scribble. It's all rather enervating as it doesn't resolve itself, which I'm guessing is the intention, and it succeeds because I find it unsettling. The slight of hand has me wondering whether there is anything of substance beneath each layer of artifice.

    I'm told there are references to bed sheets and headboards, an interest in evidence and courtroom proceedings, even some photos found in a foundation, but I prefer the unease that comes with not knowing. I like (though that's not the right word because I don't exactly enjoy the work) the obstacle it presents, though I also remain skeptical as to any reward it promises. So I've embraced not expecting one.



    Nadia Belerique, Bed Island, 2016, installation view

    But then there are the sweaters and two shirts tied to the steel cut frames. They take the work to a new place. Without them, there would be nothing real in the gallery, nothing from real life. The vacuum would leave me gasping. But these remnants of the outside world resist the arch intentionality of the work and make it human. Limp and knotted, but holding on for dear life, they anchor the exhibition with an unexpected twist. I’m still trying to figure out what they mean.


    Daniel Faria Gallery: http://danielfariagallery.com/
    Nadia Belerique: Bed Island continues until June 4.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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  • 05/19/16--06:24: Annette Kelm at Vox
  • To put it mildly, still life photography is having a bit of a moment. Among its more compelling recent proponents is the German photographer Annette Kelm, whose work is currently exhibiting at Vox. Her images are a subtle and curious mixture of contrary aesthetics. While always based in conceptual photography, her subject matter and style are heterogeneous in nature, across her practice as a whole and sometimes within individual works themselves. With meticulous care and rigour, the work casually encompasses diverging qualities – from the personal to the clinical to the political, from slickly finished to DIY, from simple imagery to complex references.



    Annette Kelm, Untitled (Tulpe, Magnets), 2013, C-print

    Take the second room in the exhibition as an example: a series of photographs capturing fields of sunflowers appear like landscape stock photography in comparison to the carefully composed Untitled (Tulips, Magnets) with its swooning tulips and horseshoe magnets set upon a stripe-patterned background. Conversely, a photograph of iron filings has the abstract air of a Henri Michaux painting and a pair of pink children’s overalls is documented laying flat on a stark white backdrop. These photographs are each embedded with codes and references. I might have the knowledge to understand a few of them, but definitely not the majority, and it doesn’t really matter if I do or if I don’t. The starkly constructed imagery is captivating in and of itself, let alone for what it hints toward, and together the works create a slippery, fragmented narrative of cultural exploration and critique.

    At its best, the strategy of still-life goes beyond passive “design eye” composition into the subversive. As witnessed in Kelm’s practice, destabilized quotidian subject matter can reveal and conceal complex issues in its wake.


    Vox Centre de l’image contemporaine: http://www.centrevox.ca/en/
    Annette Kelm continues until June 25.


    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.


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